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Around Here | After traveling a bunch in August — to Madison to visit friends, to Denver for a girls’ weekend, and to the cabin for Labor Day — I’m feeling ok about being more of a homebody in September. While I don’t want to miss any opportunities to see new places and visit friends when I don’t have anything tying me down, I also like being at home and spending time with friends and family around here. I may be stir crazy by the end of the month, but for now this is good.

Reading | I’m making reading a priority in September, and so far that goal is off to a good start. I finished two books over Labor Day weekend, The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin and Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo, which was incredibly satisfying. I had a nasty cold most of the weekend, so settling down and reading almost constantly was just what I wanted to do. I’m working on reviews of both that I think will go up on Instagram first and then make their way to the blog.

I’m making good progress in two more books, Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zomorodi and My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent. Bored and Brilliant, about ways to take better control of our devices, is making me want to hide my phone in my sock drawer. My Absolutely Darling, fiction about a teenage girl trying to break free of her abusive, survivalist father, is good, I think, but filled with all of the uncomfortable questions you get when a man writes about the sexual abuse of a teenage girl.

Listening | My sister and I started an audio book on our drive to the cabin, A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn. The main character, Victorian-era lady scientist Veronica Speedwell, is so, so funny, and I am loving the narration by Angele Masters.

Watching | Jenny and I also needed a new tv show to watch while eating dinner, so we finally settled on Graceland, a TNT series that went off the air a few years ago. It’s pretty dumb, but also kind of awesome. We contain multitudes.

Laughing/Crying | Sarah Cooper’s cartoon of nine non-threatening leadership strategies for women made me laugh and it made me really angry.

Practicing | I have been working, somewhat diligently, on improving my brush lettering and pseudo-calligraphy skills. I am… not great at it, but I am slowly getting better.

Making | I am so close to being finished with a crochet Yoda hat for a dear friend’s toddler. If I am not lazy, he’ll have it in time to wear this winter — huzzah!

Loving | Jenny made the coolest rainbow swirl cupcakes last weekend. I cannot get over how awesome they looked. I feel like she missed her true calling. The photo credit also goes to her.

Promoting | I’m really excited that the nonfiction newsletter I write for Book Riot, True Story, has moved to a weekly publishing schedule. The edition that came out today is a list of 10 new books that came out this week, the first big week for new fall releases. I’m excited about the weekly format because I think it’ll give me some more flexibility to play around with more topics and backlist recommendations. If you’d like to sign up, you can do so on this page.

Missing | I wish that I could be back lounging by the pool at our hotel in Denver, soaking up the hot summer sun.

Embracing (Sort Of) | I am doing my very, very best to start embracing the fall. My flannel shirts are out, my warm blankets are laundered, and my apple cider tea is ready for brewing. Fall is lovely, but I have a hard time not thinking ahead to the season I dread, winter. But, life is all about trying to stay in the moment… so that’s what I’m trying to do.

Happy September, everyone! What are you looking forward to for this month? This season? Hit me up with your favorite fall stuff!

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I feel like I say this every month but… can August really be over? Can we really be moving into the fall, with back to school and turning leaves and pumpkin spice everything? It feels like the summer flew by, and I wasn’t even that busy.

One of the (many) strange things about unemployment is the way time seems to fill in a totally different way. It’s something I’ve talked with my therapist about, this feeling of having all the time in the world to do the things I want to do, but not necessarily being able to enjoy it because of the lingering anxiety that sits right in the background. Or the challenges of finding ways to fill this expanse of time so it feels like I’m not just sitting still while the rest of the world moves along beside me. I’ve never had a season of life like this one, and I’m sort of grappling with it in the background all the time. But… that’s enough existential unemployment angst for one post, let’s talk about books!

My reading in August was a little slower than I initially expected it might be, but looking back I can see that coping with the one year anniversary of Nate’s death took up a lot of space and energy that pulled away from other things I might have preferred to be doing. Still, six books isn’t a bad total for the month:

  1. We Love You Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge (fiction)
  2. Camino Island by John Grisham (fiction)
  3. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstren (fiction)
  4. The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh (fiction)
  5. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (science fiction?)
  6. Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give by Ada Calhoun (essays)

Honestly? Nothing really stands out to me as an outstanding read. My favorite was probably Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give, a slim collection of essays about marriage that sort of surprised me. The Night Circus was a re-read for a book club, and I certainly enjoyed it, but I just wasn’t as wowed by it this time around. I did also like The Blinds, a sort of science fiction-esqe Western where criminals have their minds erased in exchange for a new life in a remote desert community, but it wasn’t life-changing. All in all, August was a fine but not extraordinary month of reading.

A Look to September

September kicks off the big fall publishing season, so a lot of the galleys I picked up at BookExpo in May are approaching their publication day. In order to try and read as many as possible, I’m challenging myself to go on a television diet this month — I can watch shows with other people, but I’m going to try not to just sit around and watch tv on my own. Hopefully that’ll help boost my reading time for the month.

I’m hoping to jump start that month of reading this weekend when I’ll be up at the cabin with my family. Here are some of the books I’m throwing in my suitcase:

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemison — This one finally came in at the library for me, and I am psyched. It’s the first in a science fiction trilogy that just concluded this fall, so if I like it I can jump into the next two pretty quickly.

Black Flags: The Rise of Isis by Joby Warrick — This book, a look at how the strain of militant Islam we now know as ISIS formed and spread — won the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 2016. It was an impulse buy a few weeks ago, but I’ve already been sucked in. The narrative and storytelling are really strong, which I feel like you need for a book on a topic as difficult as this one.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo — My favorite YA author writing about one of my favorite superheroes as a teenager. Yes, please. This one just came in the mail and I am psyched to read it over the last long holiday weekend of summer.

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo — I’m not sure where I found this one, but I am all in for a “devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love” as a vacation read.

I’ll probably bring one more book, likely nonfiction, but I’m not sure what I’m in the mood to grab. Five books, plus my Nook, isn’t too many books for one long weekend, right? What books are you excited to pick up over the last weekend of summer?

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A version of this post originally appeared at Book Riot.

As regular readers of the blog know, between April 4 and July 12, I posted 100 book reviews on Instagram as part of The 100 Day Project, a free, global art initiative where people around the world commit to doing something creative every day for 100 days. Participants pick a project, choose a hashtag, and commit to sharing their progress every day through the the 100 days of the challenge.

I don’t have an artistic bone in my body, but I love books and I love photography, and I was in a position where I wanted a creative challenge… with that, 100 Days of Books by Kim (#100daysofbooksbykim) was born. (In addition to Instagram, I also rounded up all of my photos and reviews here on the blog — you can find links to each of those posts here).

Taking 100 photos and writing 100 reviews is not easy, but I also think it’s a project that anyone with a passion for books and photography could take on themselves. Here are seven lessons I learned while completing my 100 Day Project:

1. Set some guidelines for your project.

Before you embark on an ambitious bookstagram project, it’s important to set a framework for what you want to do. If the project is too general, it’s going to feel overwhelming. If it’s too narrow, you’re going to run out of ideas.

The initial framework of my project was pretty general: post a book photo and short review every day for 100 days. To make sure I didn’t get lazy, I also decided I would use a different background every day and I wouldn’t post more than one book from any author. To keep myself from running out of ideas, I decided I would use both old and new reads to complete the project… there was just no way I was going to be able to read 100 books, but with a lot of backlist titles thrown in it was easy to get there.

2. Find your style… but don’t be afraid to mix things up.

When I started this project, I imagined that I’d be doing a lot of styled photos, putting my books against a nice light background and accessorizing (that’s not even the right word!) with flowers and other ephemera related to the titles. I tried that for a few photos and realized that it wasn’t going to work for me over the course of 100 days – I didn’t have a good space or good props, and I actually thought setting those photos up was kind of tedious.

Instead, I found that I liked doing photos where you find an interesting background or scene, then photograph the book there. This involves a lot more travel and some more thinking ahead, but I it gave the overall project a more natural, casual aesthetic and got me out of my house and explore more than I might have otherwise – an extra win I wasn’t expecting.

3. Find some inspiration.

There are a ton of great bookstagram accounts out there to offer inspiration, from publishing house accounts to individuals to book media. We’ve rounded up many in posts at Book Riot, and I also went out to find my own.

Some of my favorites publishers on Instagram are Graywolf Press, Random House and Dutton Books. Seek out people who you think do good work and see what you can learn from them.

4. Always be looking around… and always have a book.

Once I decided I was going to mostly focus on creative backgrounds, I started to see backdrops for book photos everywhere. The space you need for a book photo isn’t big – probably 12 inches by 12 inches at most – which opens up a ton of possibilities. Because I was also using backlist books, not just current reads, I had some flexibility in bringing books out with me for photo shoots in different spaces as needed. For most of the project, I had two or three or four extra books sitting in my car in case I saw a new location for a photo.

5. Pay attention to light.

Taking photos in the middle of the day, when the sun is highest and brightest, is a challenge. So it taking photos in artificial light. Try to find good natural light to take your photos, and pay attention to the way shadows are falling on your photos. And if you happen to be using library books, pay attention to how light is playing off of the shiny covers.

For more tips on bookstagramming like a pro, check out this post from Rioter Kristina Pino with her suggestions on staging, props, lights and the use of filters.

6. Start a reading journal, now!

One of the best resources I had for this project was my book blog. I’ve been writing about books on the internet since 2008, so I have a pretty extensive collection of reviews and notes of what I’ve been reading for the last nine years. I was doing a lot of backlist books as part of this project, so it was really helpful to have those posts to look back on.

If you don’t want to start a blog, get a notebook and start a reading journal to list the books you’ve read and a few thoughts on each one. Even if you don’t do a bookstagram project, you will love looking back on these notes later as you try to recall specifics about a book you loved (or hated!).

7. Stick with it.

I tend to be a person who starts out strong with projects, then misses a day and can’t seem to get back on the horse (hello, going to the gym). In this case, I gave myself a lot of grace when I missed a day or two and just made the effort to get caught up when I had some extra time. I probably missed 12 days over the course of the project, but I stuck it out and finished on time. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

For me, completing the 100 Day Project was hugely validating. It felt good to set a goal and meet it, and I loved the chance to share my favorite books with a different audience than my blog and Book Riot. If this project sounds like fun, I really encourage you to give it a try!

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This post originally appeared on Book Riot

This month’s total solar eclipse, which will pass over the United States on Monday, Aug. 21, has gotten me all excited about space and astrophysics once again. In order to help all of us get a little historic and scientific background for this event, I’ve put together four books that I think are worth picking up.

(Note: These aren’t books that will tell you about how specifically to watch or participate in the total solar eclipse – there are plenty of great online resources (like this one from Space.com) you can turn to for help. And many local libraries are hosting eclipse viewing events, so make sure to check those out too).

For a general history of solar eclipses… Sun Moon Earth by Tyler Nordgren

In Sun Moon Earth, Tyler Nordgren looks at how “this most seemingly unnatural of natural phenomena was transformed from a fearsome omen to a tourist attraction.” He revisits the work of ancient astrologers and philosophers, explores the weirdness of Victorian-era science, and looks at contemporary researchers use eclipses to study major scientific theories. I liked this one because it’s a slim but comprehensive look at how humanity’s perceptions of solar eclipses has changed over time and how strange they continue to be.

For women’s contributions to astronomy… The Glass Universe by Dava Sobel

I, for one, am so excited about the wealth of books coming out about the specific contributions that women have made to science behind the scenes and without the same type of credit that their male counterparts have gotten. The Glass Universe tells the story of the female “calculators” at Harvard College Observatory in the mid-19th century. Similar to the women of Hidden Figures and Rise of the Rocket Girls, these women were charged with calculating and interpreting the work of their male colleagues. Eventually, the women were also able to study the images captured each night and start to make discoveries of their own. I haven’t gotten to read this one, but I’m looking forward to it.

For one look at a Gilded Age solar eclipse… American Eclipse by David Baron

One of the last times Americans could view a total solar eclipse was July 1878, smack dab in the middle of America’s Gilded Age. Science journalist David Baron recreates what it was like in the United States at that time, looking deeply at the scientists who hoped to learn about the world during the event. American Eclipse focuses most on three people – asteroid and planet hunter James Craig Watson, astronomer Maria Mitchell, and inventor Thomas Edison – to show how the eclipse provided an opportunity for Americans to contribute to the advancement of science which, at the time, was happening primarily in Europe.

For a tour of the cosmos… Welcome to the Universe by Neil DeGrasse Tyson, J. Richard Scott, and Michael Strauss

If you ever wanted to take an astronomy course with some of today’s top astrophysicists, this book is the one to pick up. Based on a lass that Tyson, Scott, and Strauss taught at Princeton, Welcome to the Universe covers a lot of the basics – planets, stars, wormholes, black holes, galaxies and even time travel. While not specifically about eclipses, this book is a great primer because it’ll give you the tools to talk about space and the universe with other enthusiasts while experiencing the eclipse for yourself.

Original photo by Takeshi Kuboki via Flickr.

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Around Here | Job hunting is the worst. That’s pretty much it. I worked on a bunch of applications near the end of the July, and I’m now waiting impatiently to hear if I’m going to get interviews out of any of them. And searching job boards. And filling out more applications. And waiting and waiting and waiting.

Reading | I got a lot of reading done in July, but not much so far in August. I have finished two books — We Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge and Camino Island by John Grisham. We Love You, Charlie Freeman was great, but I have a weakness for books on families being part of anthropological experiments. I also liked the way Greenidge wrote about race and the complicated history we have with race and medicine in the United States.

Camino Island was a fun read… but otherwise not great. I picked it up because the central mystery/thriller of the book was a literary heist, but that ended up being pretty secondary to a book that mostly felt like a series of extended monologues on The State of Publishing and Writing. A friend described it as a book by someone who wants to write literary fiction, but doesn’t really know how, which seems pretty accurate to me. But, for all of that, I still read it all the way through and mostly enjoyed the experience.

Watching | The only thing I have wanted to watch in the last week or so is old episodes of The Great British Baking Show on Netflix. I’ve been in a weird mood lately, and that show is just soothing and warm and funny in a way that is perfect right now. I would love to watch something similar… but I just can’t find anything that fits.

Listening | I’ve enjoyed the first three episodes of Book Riot’s newest podcast, Annotated, quite a bit. It’s an audio-documentary series, kind of like Hidden Brain or This American Life, except for stories about books and the literary life. The fourth episode — “The United States V. One Book Called ‘Ulysses'” — dropped today, so I’ll probably dig into that this afternoon.

Buying | Even though it’s summer and really warm, I still like to cuddle up in the morning under a blanket with a cup of tea. But all of my blankets were way too hot for that too be comfortable… dilemma! Last weekend I bought myself a summer blanket. It’s navy and a light cotton blend and it’s perfect. Life is about the little things.

Brainstorming | My therapist suggested that one way to move through a long period of unemployment is to put together a “bucket list” of things to do or accomplish during a season when having enough time isn’t an issue. I’ve been working on my list, rather slowly, but made sure that it also includes a bunch of things I’ve already done… since there’s nothing more satisfying than adding something to a list and immediately crossing it off.

Loving | Last weekend I went to Madison to spend some time with friends. I saw a play, went for a walk in a nature conservancy (with a cool bubbling spring!), stuffed my face at a food festival, and spent a lot of time catching up with people I don’t see often enough. It was an excellent visit.

Anticipating | Tomorrow morning, my sister and I are leaving for a semi-spontaneous trip out to Denver. This weekend is the one year anniversary of Nate’s death, a fact of the calendar that I have no words to describe. I haven’t known what to do with myself as the anniversary approaches, but getting out of town and creating some positive memories seemed like one good option. So after a lot of hemming and hawing on my part, we booked flights and a nice hotel and we’re just going to see what happens.

But before we go I’ve got laundry to finish, books to pack, and applications to finish… so I better wrap this up. Happy August, everyone! What are you most looking forward to this month?

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